My local fast lube oil place has suggested to me that I have my power steering fluid flushed out. What is the reason for doing this or are they just trying to sell me some snake oil?
Hey there Paul,
Well, they might be trying to sell you snake oil, but they could be looking after your best interests. Over time power steering fluid breaks down and gets dirty just like any other lubricant does.
When the fluid gets dirty, and gritty feeling it can do internal damage to the power steering pump and the rack and pinion unit…both are costly to replace.
Older GM vehicles from the 80’s and 90’s had an issue with this the most. The fluid would get gritty and cause the pump to make a loud whining noise. In extreme cases during cold weather or on the first few minutes after starting the engine the power steering would be really hard to turn.
Damage to the pump and the rack and pinion unit under the vehicle had taken place and in many cases both items needed to be replaced. Had the owner changed or flushed the power steering fluid regularly (say every 40,000 miles) this would not have happened.
So, take a sample of your fluid using a turkey baster or some other means of getting a sample of the fluid. Then place it in a Styrofoam cup. Does it look black or very dark? It should either be a pinkish color or a light brown color. Now feel it, place it between your thumb and index finger and move it around. Does it feel clean or gritty?
If the fluid is dark, smells like a BBQ pit and has a gritty feeling to it I would flush it out and use new fluid before it damages the seals and internal parts of the system.
If the fluid is clean looking and does not feel gritty or dirty then you can probably wait a while longer before flushing it out.
This repair should be part of regular maintenance although many people fail to do it. You might get lucky and nothing happens, but then you might not and end up spending $1200 for a new rack and pinion unit.
Hope this helps